Jordan McPherson/SEC Country
Florida quarterback Malik Zaire has not played since the second half of the season opener.

Florida needs to see what QB Malik Zaire can do for offense

Ryan Young

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Quarterback Malik Zaire was the biggest story of the offseason when he chose Florida over other high-profile suitors.

Most expected the coveted Notre Dame graduate transfer to step right in as the starting QB, and for his dual-threat abilities to add an extra dynamic to a Gators offense badly needing a breakthrough.

Well, nothing has changed as far as Florida’s struggles on offense since then, but Zaire has not been given a chance to even try to make an impact.

Aside from a second-half relief stint in the season opener, he has been merely a frustrated spectator with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks starting five games and veteran Luke Del Rio making one start before sustaining a season-ending injury.

With Franks simply not showing the week-to-week growth and improvement many had hoped he would, the calls within the fan base for a QB change are amplifying.

That leads to the latest Gators Mailbag Question of the Day:

Cedric K. asks … “How bad is Zaire and (Jake) Allen if they aren’t playing?”

The insinuation of the question is that surely somebody else could match or exceed the production the Gators are getting from Franks, who averaged a meager 121.5 passing yards while totaling 1 TD (on a shovel pass initially scored as a rushing TD) and 2 interceptions over the last two losses.

Allen, a freshman who joined the program this summer, is not an option this fall. He is redshirting and learning the playbook. Franks has had a year and a half in the offense and still does not look completely comfortable. It takes time.

Zaire is the option here and it only makes sense for the Gators to at least see what he can do.

Maybe he doesn’t know the offense inside and out either after arriving in June, but he’s in his fifth year of college football and played in some big games during his time at Notre Dame. That experience is what Franks is lacking and part of the reason he looks overwhelmed on the field, struggles to move off his primary target and struggles with situational awareness.

And let’s be honest, the offensive game plan hasn’t looked all that complex these first six games. Surely Zaire could replicate the steady stream of screen passes and short slants the Gators have relied on almost exclusively from a passing standpoint.

The bigger point, though, is there is at least the potential that he’s better than what Franks is able to provide the Gators at this point in his development.

I don’t know how many times I’ve recited these stats, but the fact is Zaire started three games at Notre Dame and played exceptionally well in two of them.

He was the MVP of the 2014 Music City Bowl despite splitting snaps, completing 12 of 15 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown along with 96 rushing yards and another score in a win over LSU. He then opened the 2015 season by completing 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and 3 touchdowns in a win over Texas.

Those are markedly better performances than anything Franks has shown so far.

Florida has two weeks to get ready for Georgia and its last-gasp attempt at remaining in contention in the SEC East. That’s a prime opportunity to build a game plan around Zaire and see if he can be the spark this offense so badly still needs.

If he tries and fails, then at least the Gators know where the position stands and they can use the rest of the season to get Franks better prepared for 2018.

Not even giving Zaire a shot, though, is hard to understand as the QB play continues to hinder this offense and this team.

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